Zoë M. Simmons

Role summary

Zoë’s primary role is the management of all Diptera and Arachnid collections. She is responsible for all enquiries and loan requests relating to these collections, as well as hosting visitors for tours, teaching and academic research visits. She runs various training sessions in Museum specialisms including the collection, mounting and conservation of insect and arachnid specimens; documentation and collections management. As the Volunteer Co-ordinator for the Life Department, she regularly takes on interns and work placement students interested in natural history and museum studies. 

Other activities include: answering conservation queries; integrated pest management advice and pest identification services; science writing and editing; and providing exhibition expertise for both permanent and temporary displays. She has constructed a number of permanent displays for the museum, including the Alphabet Zoo (upper west balustrade) and the Thematic Insect display (upper south gallery). 

Originally trained as a Coleopterist she now enjoys working with Araneae, especially those of the Octavius Pickard-Cambridge collection. She seeks to develop collaborative projects with researchers from around the world.

Alongside her collections role, Zoë is also Project Leader (Collections) for the 'Hope for the Future' project, generously supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.


Zoë studied Environmental Biology at Oxford Brookes University, qualifying with a first-class honours degree in 2004. In 2017 she graduated from Leicester University, where she was awarded a Masters with Distinction in Museum Studies. For her dissertation she was presented the Professor Susan Pearce Prize, which is given to the student who achieves the highest mark in the year for projects relating to museum and gallery objects and collections.

Her work in the Hope Entomological Collections has led to a specialism in historic collections research, particularly with regard to identification of type material. She has an interest in the material culture of natural history collections, especially relating to insects and/or Victorian era collections with which sale and exchange of specimens is linked to patterns of global trade and exploration.

She is co-author of Rare and Wonderful: Treasures of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and a science advisor on a number of popular children’s books.


  • Unidentified Central and South American Diptera in the Oxford Museum of Natural History (OUMNH), or Awesome flies and where to find them

  • Type specimens of Neuropterida in the Hope Entomological Collection, Oxford University Museum of Natural History

  • On the type species of the genus Aetius O. Pickard-Cambridge, 1896: The first description of male with notes on cymbial notch and mating plug (Araneae: Corinnidae: Castianeirinae)

  • This Is a Local Museum, for Local Natural History Specialist Groups

  • More